Andy & Rory Martin (SLYC) sailed a near perfect series counting four firsts in windy conditions in winning the Flying Fifteen East Coast Championships at Ballyholme Yacht Club on the south shore of Belfast Lough. As this was the first in the qualifying series for next year there was a good turn out of 22 boats from around the country.
There were three races on Saturday, in their eagerness the fleet had a general recall in the first start. The Martins were quick out of the blocks but a number of boats all converged at the weather mark together. On the next lap places changed hands but eventually settled with Martin winning, McKee second and Gorman third.
In race two the Martins led all the way to take the gun, Chamberlain was second with McCleery third and Gorman a close fourth. The wind was still strong from the south for race three with the outgoing tide not really having a big impact. Crews were tiring at this stage but the thoughts of the club BBQ kept them going! A cluster of boats arrived at the weather mark but Gorman nipped inside and took the lead downwind, a lead he extended to the finish to take the gun, Willis & McPeak were second with McKee third. The Martins had gear failure during the race and had to retire.
"The Martins had gear failure during the race and had to retire"
After three races Gorman & Doorly led overnight from McKee and Chamberlain but when the discard kicked in then the Martins would be back in the mix.
A great BBQ was provided by the club and the evening finished with most of the travellers visiting and touring the old RUYC which was founded over 150 years ago.
For Sunday more breeze was forecast, still from the south. It was blowing hard at 23knots with gusts of 28 knots. The PRO put up the AP to delay and see if the winds would settle. It was an interesting scenario if sailing was abandoned Gorman would win, if we went out Martins were likely to win in the big breeze. But we were here to sail and the winds settled to a steady 20knots plus and out we went.
Race 4 was close as usual but the Martins continued their good form and led all the way, Harrison and Green were in contention on the first lap but on lap 2 Gorman was working hard and moved into second place chasing the Martins but that’s how it stayed to the finish line. Green & Bracken (NYC) who were having a great event were third followed very closely by Mathews.
Race 5, the final race! Gorman could still win if the Martins had a poor race and finished below fifth. But it wasn’t to be as the Martins showed their best form in the conditions to win the last race while Gorman had to retire with gear failure at the first windward mark. Gorman finished second overall with McCleery & Dougan third. The Silver Fleet was won by Stuart Harrison & Tim Sheard (LNYC) and the bronze by Alan Balfe & John Whelan (NYC).
It is the class’s first visit in a long time to the club that had a thriving Fifteen fleet in days gone by, it was a successful return with great racing provided by PRO David McMullen and great hospitality.
Also a special word of thanks to coordinator Jimmy McKee and the local diving club members who helped in the launching and retrieving of boats.
The next event is the Championship of Northern Ireland in June at Whiterock in Strangford Lough.